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In Search of Idaho’s Gig Economy

As with the rest of the nation, accurately estimating the size of the gig economy in Idaho remains a challenge. While measures such as part-time employment and self-employment show unimpressive growth trends, other indicators like the growth of staffing agencies and nonemployer establishments tell a different and perhaps more believable story – the gig economy in Idaho is alive and growing.

What is a gig?

The word “gig” spontaneously invokes images of bar bands, freelance writers, Uber drivers and TaskRabbit workers. A common thread with these workers is that work is on-demand and oftentimes uncertain. The formal definition of a gig, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is “a single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.”

Not only can gigs vary in frequency, duration and skill level, the gig worker can have many faces as well. One gig worker could be self-employed with one or multiple gigs forming the bulk of his/her income; another could be a part-time worker using gigs to supplement traditional employment. These variances are part of the difficulties faced in estimating the size of the gig economy and workforce.

Proxy datasets used to represent the gig economy capitalize on some of the typical elements of gig work namely that gig workers are often part-time, contingent workers and are self-employed. These datasets are imperfect indicators that offer only a glimpse of this gig economy. The following are some of these indicators.

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